AVSIM Commercial FS9/FSX Scenery Review

San Jose del Cabo International Airport

Product Information

Publishers: BajaSim

Description: Commercial scenery package of San Jose del Cabo’s Int'l Airport.

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Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9/FSX
Reviewed by: Benjamin van Soldt AVSIM Staff Reviewer - September 8, 2011

Introduction

Around the world, there are some locations that you’ve never been to, but are really curious about. For me, that would be much of Central America. Guatamala, Costa Rica… All countries that probably are extremely beautiful, but where I’ll never go to in the coming ten or twenty years.

The simulator is then a great way to at least get a glimpse of what those countries might look like. I have now done several flights from Panama to Costa Rico, from Guatamala to Honduras and most recently, from Dallas Forth Worth to San Jose del Cabo.

San Jose del Cabo is another one of those cities that I’ll probably never end up visiting outside of the simulator. It is the most important beach resort/coastal town in Mexico, and for good reason: the place is praised as one of the most beautiful in Mexico, welcoming hordes of tourists every year. We now have scenery for this paradise in both FS2004 and FSX.

The developer is a new player on the field: a company by the name of Bajasim, and this is their first release. In this review I’ll be looking at the FSX version of their scenery.

Test System

Computer Specs

Windows 7 64 bit
FSX
Intel i5 Quad @2,79 gHz
ATI HD5750
12GB RAM DDR3
FSGenesis mesh, REX, MTX, GEX

Flight Test Time:

5 hours

Installation and Documentation

Installation is very straight forward, and works like the majority of scenery installations. The only manual part is when you add the scenery to your scenery library, within FSX. What I like is that the scenery is installed in Addon Scenery/Bajasim. I hate it when sceneries install themselves into anything other than the Addon Scenery folder, unless it’s mesh or something of the kind. The FSX folder gets messy, and I hate messes.

As for the documentation, it’s standard, but I really like the layout. Several pages in length, it gives some general information, basically all the info you’d expect in a scenery manual. The layout is very nice, very clean. Other that that, there isn’t too much to say about it.

Starting the review

This review is going to start in a slightly different way. What I normally do is start up the Trike Ultralight at the end of the active runway, take off, circle around the airport, take notes and screenshots and then do some flights in and out of the place to check performance.

I’m going to do this differently now. You see, one of the claims the developers make is “excellent performance”. I have become very skeptical of this claim since it’s often abused. They say, “Yes! Excellent performance!” But they then neglect to tell you that the scenery was tested on a machine that’s probably twice as good as yours and you end up with a scenery product whose performance is simply abysmal.

What makes Bajasim’s claim any different? It’s the fact that they give actual data! They say that they tested their scenery on two low end computers, and I quote:

“We have tested this scenery on two low end computers, one with a dual core processor WITHOUT 3d video card and another one with a pentium 4 @2.5 ghz with a 256mb video card. In both FSX run between 13 and 25 fps (while most of sceneries in market gives from 3 to 8 fps in this computers!!!!”

When I read this I jumped out of my seat. That seemed truly unimaginable. So, I had to see if this actually holds true. From all my experience, I have found that the approach and landing at any airport is when the performance tends to be crappiest. It’s the single position at which you see all of the scenery, and therefore FSX has the hardest time maintaining good performance. So, I wanted to know how this airport behaves when on approach, but I did not want to spoil that experience by taking off, doing a circuit and landing. As such, I had to fly into this airport. Thus beginneth this review.

Flying to San Jose del Cabo SJD

For this flight we will use the PMDG 737NGX. It is a new aircraft that is suited for this kind of flight and is also operated by the airline that we will be doing this flight with: American Airlines. Our flight starts at Dallas Forth Worth KDFW, for which I have the FSDreamTeam scenery.

FSDT’s KDFW is a bad performer on my system, like pretty much all of their sceneries. This is probably because all of their sceneries are huge airports, of which KDFW is a good example. At KDFW with the PMDG 737NGX I had about 12FPS. Soon after takeoff, the FPS climbed to at least 20, and most of the flight I had between 20 and 50, but since it was jumping up and down like FSX tends to do on my computer, you could say I had an average of about 30 or so.

Now came the interesting part. I was approaching the airport. Save for some clouds that my ATI card always had big problems with, the FPS mostly stayed between 20 and 30. Here we are landing at SJD:

Looking at the exterior model, we have around 43 in this image, but the FPS were fluctuating from 30 up to 60 even.
Landing from the VC, using the HGS. In the image you see a FPS of 25, but they were fluctuating between 25 and 33 or so.

I was quite amazed, in all honesty. The 737NGX has always been a rather good performer on my system, but landing at an add-on airport had never given me more than 15-17FPS within the VC, depending on the scenery. I think the claims that the developers make are valid: the scenery is indeed more FPS friendly than other airports, but keep in mind that part of this is due to the size of the airport.

It is a rather small airport, so its performance will always be better than that of FSDT’s KDFW. Still, you can fly in and out of this airport being confident that you will not have a slide show, but a nice, fluid experience.

Terminal area

The terminal area is always bound to be the most detailed part of any airport scenery, and that’s how it should be since that’s the place you will be arriving and departing most of the time. Fortunately, it seems Bajasim did a nice job in this department. We will go over the terminal area, bit by bit, and see what was modeled and in what detail.

Terminal area overview

At SJD we find three terminals. Terminal 1 is the main terminal and handles most of the flights. Terminal 3 was built as a relief for the saturated terminal 1, but Delta and Alaska Airlines have decided to move their operations to terminal 3 for good. So what about terminal 2?

Terminal 2 is for GA, as the apron in front of terminal 2 will hint at. At present, a 4th terminal is under construction, which is also represented in Bajasim’s scenery. We will come to that later; however, as we first give some other structures a look. We will move from north to south.

Side of building 1.
The back of the first building.
Overview of the first building.

The first building looks like some sort of office building. There are bright green grass patches with trees along its sides, and several cars and boxes are placed at the parking lot next to the building. The building itself has been very nicely modeled, and the textures are really good. Not just of the building, but also of the cars and the ground, including the asphalt.

I really like how the parking lot looks. It’s a pity that no cars were placed there. That could have made the place look livelier. Everything seems so deserted the way it is now.

Second building: a hangar.

The second building we come across is a small hangar, with a bright green color. Again the modeling looks good, but the texturing is especially nice. The textures on this hangar are eye-popping, also in the sense that the green is very… green… I couldn’t locate a real photograph of it, so I can’t say if this actually should be as green as it is, but I assume that it is okay. Again we see some of the vans, with again the really nice texturing. I must say that the trees seem a little white-ish, though. Not sure what kind of tree this is, but it looks a little strange.

Next to the hangar.

Directly south of the hangar we find all kinds of ground equipment. Everything here looks great. From the intricately modeled stairs to the pushback tugs, it all is very nicely modeled and textured. I also like the look of those grass patches with trees and shrubs outlined by the bright yellow curb, which is actually a 3D thing, not just a texture on the ground.

Front of terminal 1.
Front of terminal 1.
Back of terminal 1.
The inside of terminal 1.
Some carts in front of terminal 1.

We finally arrive at terminal 1. Terminal 1 is, as said, the main terminal at the airport, currently handling most of the passenger traffic arriving and departing at the airport. It is equipped with several gates, none of which have jetways. The passengers stroll out of the terminal building to the aircraft.

There are several things I like here. First of all the modeling, which is quite detailed. They even modeled parts of the interior. One of the upper screenshots shows that you can see benches and such inside. This brings me to the second point: the texturing.

The texturing of both the terminal and the apron is phenomenally detailed, in a way I rarely see. That’s the benefit of small airports: you can include much higher resolution textures and still get good performance. The textures of the signs above the gate’s doors are so crisp that you can easily read what’s written on it. The apron textures are spectacular and show each and every stone that was put in these concrete slabs. This is really good!

The second half of terminal 1 is as detailed as the first half. Funny thing here is that there is a roof for passengers to walk under. Of course this has also been added in nice detail. Although there isn’t much newness for the rest, I want to highlight the foliage patch. I love the shrubs here, and the grassy/sandy ground texture looks realistic.

Finally, I have included a close-up shot of the carts standing in front of terminal 1 and some of terminal 1 itself. Again, you can look inside and see some chairs and such. The carts look really good. I especially like that they are not clean, but quite dirty. Note especially the rusty parts at the bottom of the cart.

The passenger side of the terminal looks equally good, with accurate modeling and the same high quality texturing. The only pity is that the parking lot is completely devoid of cars, and I’m not sure why. It’s not as if they had to be careful to keep good performance, so some cars would have made the place look nicer. Or at least more filled, anyway.

Yep, terminal 1 looks really nice. The only thing I could wish for is a bit more detail in the sense that more ground equipment would have been nice. For some reason, terminal 1’s front side looks a bit bland. Problem is that’s simply how it looks according to the photographs I’ve seen, so there’s nothing Bajasim could have really done about it. We will now move on to the next building.

Offices.

The next set of buildings are completely non descript and could be anything and everything, at which point I either call them “maintenance hangars” or “offices”. Since these are clearly not hangars, I will call them offices. Whatever they are, they look very good, and they seem more “filled” than terminal 1.

This is probably because of three things: 1) The modeling has more to it. There are cooling fans and doors that add something extra to the model. 2) The texturing. There are various big windows for one, but something that really adds atmosphere is the dirt and cracks you can see along the lower part of the wall. 3) The foliage. The fact that there are several trees, grass patches and various shrubs along the building significantly add to the “fullness” of the place, which is exactly what terminal 1 lacks, making it look empty.

Still that’s nothing Bajasim can do anything about, but it is the most probable cause of the “issue”, if that’s what you can even call it.

The control tower.

Next building is the control tower. Here we find the same detail: good modeling (you can look into the control room) and excellent texturing. They are crisp as always and together they make for a good-looking replica. Also notice the detail on the light pole that is in the center of the control tower screenshot. The grass around the control tower looks very nice too, although it seems a bit too saturated. In Google Maps, it seems to be more sand with shrubs, like in front of terminal 1.

Front of terminal 2.
Back of terminal 2.

Terminal 2 is the GA terminal and that’s exactly how it looks like, too: very luxurious. Here’s where rich businessmen hop in and out of their bizjets to sign deals in far-away places. The building is a beautiful one. I really like the contrast of the green grass and green palms with the red terminal entrance and more white/grey parts of the terminal building.

Here again, you can look inside and see some of the interior. The detail is great, on both the modeling and texturing fronts. A really well done building. Also the back the building looks fine, although it is surprisingly drab. Nothing of the luxury can be found there. Instead we are confronted with a rather ugly, dirty white wall with a big entrance. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is. Here I would have liked to have seen some cars. They would have added to the atmosphere. I really like the ground and plant textures used.

A secured area with vats and such.

Behind the GA terminal we find a secured area. Not only is there a fence, but also two watch towers. The reason seems logical, for this is either an oil deposit site, or it’s the airport’s fuel storage, in which case it could be a potential target for terrorists.

Anyway, the modeling and texturing is very good. The vats actually seem round, and the texturing shows signs of specular and bump mapping. There is a very nice dynamic shine, as you can see, making these vats look rather realistic. The only weird thing is the fence: there doesn’t seem to be a real entry gate.

Instead, the fence has been built right across the road. I understand this was done to save FPS (at least, that’s what I assume), but it does look kind of weird. On the other hand, I doubt you would have noticed such detail when standing with your plane on the apron. It would have been nice if some cars or some other equipment had been placed here too.

Front side of terminal 3.
Back side of terminal 3.

Terminal 3 is the last (fully constructed) building in the terminal area. Admittedly, terminal 3 is a bit weird. There are no jetways, but “walkways”. You seem to walk down from the gate area to the apron, using either one of three, huge ramps. For the rest, the building is really bland.

There’s nothing to see and in a way you’d expect it to be the low-cost airlines terminal. Fact is that’s not the case. As a matter of fact, Alaska Airlines and Delta airlines have decided to move all their operations to terminal 3. Hardly seems fitting. There are hardly any windows, making it seem like a concrete prison.

Still, Bajasim’s replica looks really good. The texturing of the concrete parts is especially nice, since they have made it a bit dirty. Also the ramps look very nice. Overall, Bajasim did a very good job. Also on the backside of the terminal, we find a parking lot that is completely devoid of any cars. Still, due to the beautiful palms and the really nice texturing at the terminal entrance, the missing cars are not too disturbing.

This pretty much concludes the terminal area. Let us now look at the ground texturing.

Ground texturing

An important part of scenery is the ground. If the ground is blurry, the scenery will look awful. What’s also rather “trendy” as of late is to use photoscenery with a resolution of 7cm for the ground texturing. In that case, photoscenery is laid out, and some layers add specular and bump mapping and such, so that the surfaces resemble concrete and asphalt. The problem with this is if it’s missing or not done adequately, then the ground texturing will look blurry and thus rather crappy. Fortunately, Bajasim has understood how to do it. I present you some shots:

Runway textures

These textures are really nice. They are detailed and seem quite real to me. I’m not sure how they did the taxiway you see leading up to the runway. It seems like they added a separate “taxiway layer” onto the photoscenery, which would be the concrete slabs you see, while the faint, greyish, slightly blurry texture just adjacent to the concrete slabs you see would be the actual ground texture underneath.

I’m not sure however if we can actually see the ground texture through the concrete slabs or not. My guess is that we can, but instead of having the ground texture as the “base” of the taxiway like in some add-ons, it’s only a “complimentary” thing, where it adds several hues to the taxiway surface, but the actual detail comes from the “taxiway layer” on top of it. This layer would be what adds the concrete slabs.

What I also like is that the concrete slabs have a very clear border on either side of the taxiway, where the concrete meets the black asphalt. I’m sure that if there would have not been such a strong, clear border, then the taxiway might have looked a lot less impressive than it does now. This is indeed the trick, I think, to using ground textures effectively to portray the taxiways and runways.

As long as you clearly show what the borders are, your eye will be tricked in thinking that what you see is an actual, separate taxiway texture layer, instead of markings laid out on a satellite photograph. As soon as this is done badly, or the resolution of the photoscenery is too low, you will instantly see it and go “Ugh”.

Look at the shining effect. You’ll it will move between the two viewpoints of this screenshot and the next one…
...see that? Dynamic shine on the taxiway! Must be very hot at this place…

Two things I want to show in the above two shots. First of all, look at the shine effect on the first shot. Now look at the second, where the viewpoint has shifted. The shine is somewhere else now. In other words, they implemented some sort of dynamic shine on the concrete taxiway surfaces! It’s up to you whether you think that it’s realistic or not, but to me it does.

Why? Because this is a hot place. If you’d done this for an airport in Norway, I’d have found it a bit strange, but at a very warm airport; I think a soft touch of shine actually fits.

The other thing I want to draw your attention to is the taxiway edge. It has marvelous detail and it’s very fitting, too. I love how you see the patches of grass, the sand… Looks very good! I know some add-ons that could learn a lot from this.

Surroundings

Bajasim hasn’t stopped at the airport in this scenery. They have rightfully understood that modeling the surroundings can be an integral part of the enjoyment you can get out of using a scenery add-on. For example, if Aerosoft’s “Approaching Innsbruck” scenery had not placed photoscenery and modeled great parts of the city, the scenery wouldn’t have been half as exciting as it is now. Yes, surroundings can add a lot. I will not go as far as saying that they can make or break a scenery, but they can enhance it a lot.

In SJD, Bajasim has included buildings in the direct vicinity as well as many hotels along the coastline. I think this is a good decision: these hotels are the first thing you’d see of San Jose del Cabo when approaching the airport from the sea, and as such these buildings form a brilliant prelude to the airport and give a hint of the place you’re going to land at. Imagine Hawaii without the hotels – is that at all possible? It’s sort of the same thing for San Jose del Cabo.

Shot of the hotels along the coast…
…and another one.

The hotels you see extend along the better part of a bit of coast that is conveniently located between two large hills. The models of the hotels aren’t very detailed, being mostly just blocks, but that’s all it needs to be in all honesty. You’re not going to stand next to them, and when you land at SJD you will not even fly that low to a point where any added detail is of any importance. They are merely an added detail, and a very nice one at that. They stand on a good quality photoscenery, too. I wish though that the photoscenery would extend to the airport.

At the airport we find various buildings, from what seems to be a new neighborhood to what probably is a factory of some kind. All buildings are low on detailing, but like with the hotels, they don’t have to be that detailed. The photoscenery looks relatively nice, but what I would have really liked is some support for FSX’s cars. There is absolutely no car traffic anywhere on these roads, which is something I’m a great advocate of. I love seeing cars driving over the roads during landing. It gives me the idea of landing at a place where people really live.

Warehouses.
A new neighborhood?
Factory.

Overall, I really like these additions. They add atmosphere, and they sport the right amount of detail, giving some nice stuff to look at without forming an FPS barrier.

A plateau issue

Just one thing that I found is this plateau. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be there, and I guess it’s because of FSGenesis’s upgraded mesh for Mexico. I don’t have any real problem with it, but I know some people would find it annoying.

The scenery at night

Finally, the scenery at night. I love the texturing at this airport, as you probably have already guessed. The night lighting is equally as good, I find. It seems very natural.

The bright white lights have soft edges, looking rather realistic (as an aside, what I always disliked about shadows in games such as Quake 4 and Doom 3, is their very hard edges. It looks stale and unrealistic. I’m happy Bajasim seems to share that opinion). Below I have included a host of shots for your viewing pleasure.

Summary / Closing Remarks

When I started this review, I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. I had heard of Bajasim, but wasn’t sure what to expect. At the end of this review, I am surprised, to say the least. I mean that in the best way possible.

The modeling is really nice, but the texturing is the high point of this scenery. Wherever you look, the texturing is top notch. It is detailed, it has good coloring and manages to incorporate beautiful detail. As a big plus, the performance is great. I am very happy with this product and people that like flying around Mexico will want to have this scenery.

There is no AES support, sadly, but it might come at some point in the future. Basically, the only thing I wish that would have been in the scenery, are cars. Cars on the roads and in the parking lots. These are all completely empty now and it seems weird, especially since SJD is an international airport.

Finally, the plateau effect is something I can easily live with, although it would have been nice if it were absent.

Bajasim’s San Jose del Cabo is a beautiful add-on and a very strong start for a new scenery developer. I wish them the best of luck and I look forward to more scenery products by them.

 

What I Like About San Jose del Cabo

  • Beautiful texturing.
  • Very nice modeling.
  • Very FPS friendly.
  • Includes some surroundings, which is nice.

 

What I Don't Like About San Jose del Cabo

  • No cars, anywhere. Not on the parking lots, not on the roads. Some cars would have been nice at these locations.
  • Plateau effect might annoy some people.

 

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